The reliability of the serial reaction time task: meta-analysis of test-retest correlations

Cátia M Oliveira*, Marianna E Hayiou-Thomas, Lisa M Henderson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Serial Reaction Time task, one of the most widely used tasks to index procedural memory, has been increasingly employed in individual differences research examining the role of procedural memory in language and other cognitive abilities. Yet, despite consistently producing robust procedural learning effects at the group level (i.e. faster responses to sequenced/probable trials versus random/improbable trials), these effects have recently been found to have poor reliability. In this meta-analysis ( N = 7), comprising 719 participants ( M = 20.81, s.d. = 7.13), we confirm this 'reliability paradox'. The overall retest reliability of the robust procedural learning effect elicited by the SRTT was found to be well below acceptable psychometric standards ( r < 0.40). However, split-half reliability within a session is better, with an overall estimate of 0.66. There were no significant effects of sampling (participants' age), methodology (e.g. number of trials, sequence type) and analytical decisions (whether all trials were included when computing the procedural learning scores; using different indexes of procedural learning). Thus, despite producing robust effects at the group-level, until we have a better understanding of the factors that improve the reliability of this task using the SRTT for individual differences research should be done with caution.

Original languageEnglish
Article number221542
Number of pages19
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2023 The Authors.

Cite this